|Front view, Golu 2010. On the left side there was the mini krishna leela and on the right, the dinosaur village park. Both are missing due to lack of space in the frame and general laziness of the photographer.|
A couple of days back, I was talking about the festival with one very favourite akka of mine, when she brought up the topic of theme golus. It brought to mind a rather distinct memory, which I didn’t share with her then, but thought I’d write about.
It was Navaratri of 2005. My mother had dragged me along to go Ayodhya-Mandapam-adjacent-street Maami’s. She had kept a theme golu, the theme being “the 12 alwars“. It was quite a creative display, really – she had five small padis with the regular golu and the alwar stories going around it.
Now, every golu that I visit, I usually have this policy of looking around for a minute and then going “waaw”. It is painless, and always ensures that I get extra sundal to eat so that I’d have atleast have something to do while the older people gossiped about that maami’s daughter. Unfortunately, I was unable to exercise my patent charm at Ayodhya-Mandapam-Adjacent-Street Maami’s simply because of the fact that she insisted (read forced) us into listening to her tell the story of all 12 alwars in the same tone I use to recite tax provisions when I mug. Not very pleasant, to put it mildly. As if that wasn’t painful enough, maami gave us a paper with, wait for it, a QUIZ. It had 12 questions (keeping with the theme, apparently) and the one (out of the two of us – me and my mother) with the most number of correct answers would win a prize, namely the pink plastic boxes that she got as vethlapaaku from some other maami the previous year and decided to recycle. Which was pretty smart on her part, come to think of it, although it might have been weird if said maami had found out what she was up to.
On our way back home, I wasn’t too happy – apart from “losing” the quiz (which wasn’t much of a surprise. I had written “Andal” as the answer to all the questions) the sundal that maami had so affectionately stuffed me with was already giving me stomach trouble. Neither was my mother. Just as I was about to ask her if she was experiencing the same amount of pain that I was, “How di?” she interrupted.
“I think she gave us leftovers from yesterday, ma”
“Chi! not that. How do people keep golus like this? Theme and all. Everybody will talk about her golu, I’m sure.”
“Somebody should talk about her sundal. It’s a potential lawsuit.”
“We should keep a theme next year.”
“Are you kidding? Too much effort. Our golu is nice the way it is. Besides, nobody cares, ma.”
At that moment, there was a flash in her eyes and I knew exactly what was coming.
“We are having a theme golu next year”
“Enna? You want gelusil?”
“Noo! This theme business is torture!”
“It’s simple enough. You just have to think of something. We can’t do alwars. What about ramayana?”
“Too much work.”
“Too much work.”
“I know! Nava-rathri! The number 9!”
“No di. Nava thirupathi. Nava grahas. Like that. It’ll be new! It’ll be different! Everyone will talk about it! What do you think?”
“I think I need gelusil maa”
By the time we came back home, my mother had pretty much visualized the whole set up of how her golu was going to be next year. She was very excited, in fact, the only thing she didn’t do was jump out of the car in her very pattu podavai and run around saying “Eureka! Eureka!” which might have resulted in a vaccuum cleaner or two being aimed at her direction. But still, as far as she was concerned, she had achieved a new pinnacle in creativity and couldn’t wait to share it with Paati.
“Amma! Maami aathla enna theriyuma!“
(“Amma! Do you know what they had at Maami’s house?”)
Paati stared for a bit at both of us. It was hard to ignore the excitement on my mothers face and the nausea on mine.
“Aiyyo. Theme golu!”
“Theme golu a? Oh, they just showed it on TV. Some Maami in Adyar had also kept theme golu.”
“Apdiya? What theme? Even I have an idea for a theme.”
“Oh, it was nice. Nava rathri no? So she had kept number 9 as the theme. Nava graha set she had, then she had kept Nava thirupathi, one padi for nava rasas. Like that. It was very nice.”
Sometimes, people ask me how I so consistently bulb all the time. It takes a great amount of effort to not say hereditary.